“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).
When I opened my mailbox one afternoon, a mysterious envelope lay inside. There was no stamp, no return address, in fact no address of any sort. Across the face of the envelope was written in an unfamiliar hand, “To thank you.” Of course, of all the mail received that day, I opened that envelope first. The inside was no more revealing than the outside. All it contained was two well-worn dollar bills. No note, no name. Nothing.
Months later the envelope was still attached to my refrigerator by a magnet. It intrigued me. What kind deed had I done? Did someone drop it into the wrong mailbox? Did someone go up and down my block, putting one in each of my neighbors’ mailboxes as well? Are we all baffled, wondering what might have prompted this strange thank you?
As a child, most of us were taught the importance of saying thank you. This is just good manners, although not everyone seems to practice this habit in our too-busy world. The concept of giving thanks for the not-so-good things that come our way, however, is more difficult for us to grasp. Does God really expect me to thank Him for illness, financial hardship, broken relationships, or the death of someone I loved? The Bible seems to indicate this in I Thessalonians 5:18. “In everything give thanks.”
Helen Keller, both blind and deaf due to a childhood illness, stated, “I thank God for my handicaps for, through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God.” Coming to the point where she could honestly state this no doubt involved a long journey of discovery. She came to realize God’s faithfulness despite her circumstances.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross stated, “There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.”
Few, if any. of us enjoy going through hardship and suffering. So how do we arrive at the point where we can give thanks in every situation? I suspect it starts long before the time of trouble. We have already learned gratitude and can apply it to our present situation. God desires that gratitude always be present as fruit in our lives.
“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15)
In talking to friends going through severe trials, I hear a recurring theme. “God has given us such peace in this situation.” Their tone of voice holds a touch of wonder. The storm is severe, the future uncertain, and no solution is in sight. Yet, beyond natural comprehension, they feel peace. Philippians 4:7 describes it as “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.” The Lord is on guard as our protector. He is “the God of all comfort” (II Corinthians 1:3).
It has been said that trials can make us bitter or better. How we face life’s problems is our choice. We can grumble and complain, or we can praise God in the midst of our trials. If we choose praise, we open the channel which allows God’s peace to flood our souls.
I’ve found that thanking God for the tough times in my life allows me to embrace those times. I’m strengthened while “going through” and He gives me peace in the middle of all the chaos.